Most tequila is downed with the close-your-eyes-and-jump approach. You slam a shot, cram a lime in your mouth, and then … wake up naked … next to a total stranger … in a jail cell. But we’re here to defend the sipping of our little friend, and even to go as far as to say that tequila (ahem, good tequila) should be held in the same regard as single malt scotch or cognac. The reason you might be wary of our south-of-the-border friend is that you probably bought extremely shitty tequila when you were younger. There is actually a far greater spectrum of tequila to choose from. According to MaryHelen Guadiana, a bartender at Los Feliz in New York City, “Tequila is not just for shooting and bad hangovers anymore. There’s a whole new world of delicate, complex tequilas that have been aged in old American bourbon barrels and have hints of similar flavors.”
Good tequila is out there, and it doesn’t need the “lick it, shoot it, suck it” treatment for you to choke it down. A high-end tequila just needs you to sip it. Here are the most important things to look for when picking up a bottle of good tequila: First, if you see the word mixto or gold on the bottle, put it back. Up to 49 percent of these tequilas are hangover-inducing sugar. Instead, stick to only 100 percent pure agave tequilas and you’ll save on the Tylenol the next day. Second, pick either reposado or añejo. Reposados have been aged for a minimum of two months, while anejos have been aged a minimum of one year—and they’re usually priced accordingly. Aging tequila in oak barrels smooths it out and gives it a complexity that makes it sip-worthy, and the longer it’s aged, the smoother it tastes. Guadiana says it best: “Treat tequila like someone you dated in college. They were young, immature, and at times made you nauseous, but now they’ve aged well and are oh so smooth.”
Don Julio 1942
The Don himself created this limited edition bottling, named after the year this fine distillery was established. It’s smooth, rich, and clean; he clearly made a tequila you can’t refuse. ($125)
Don Roberto Añejo
Aged for 18 months in oak barrels, this herby and super-smooth tequila has notes of grilled pepper, leather, and wood on the front and finishes with citrus and butter. ($64)
Priced at about $300, this tequila is one of the most expensive on the market. Handcrafted by a “maestro tequilero,” it combines platinum tequila with a hint of extra añejo and comes in a crystal decanter. The ultimate tequila experience.
Be careful—this Herradura is so smooth you might forget there’s actually alcohol in it. If you let this (or any of these tequilas) anywhere near salt, lemon, or margarita mix, we will personally revoke your drinking license. ($60)